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Abstract

Fractures are ubiquitous in crystalline rocks and control the strength and geophysical and fluid transport characteristics of the Earth's upper crust. A quantitative description of fracture attributes may constrain models of fracture formation and evolution. In this study, fracture attributes collected from one-dimensional samples across exposures of typical crystalline rocks show comparable variability in fracture size and spacing to sedimentary rocks. Vein thickness and fracture aperture data show predominately power-law distributions. Vein and fracture spacing data are best described by exponential distributions with negative slopes and appear to vary with composition in intrusive rocks. The fracture systems exhibit a range of anti-clustered to clustered patterns, and densities are an order of magnitude higher for joints compared to veins. Fracture clustering data can be used in conjunction with the spatial distributions to provide information on the controlling processes of fracture spacing. We suggest that exponential spacing distribution is produced as a sampling effect for both periodic-spaced and clustered fracture sets. In the examples given here, thermal stress-related joint patterns are distinguishable from tectonic-related fractures in plutonic rocks and fracture density and clustering is increased towards a major reactivated basement fault.

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